Editorial: When floods came, emergency crews were there for Carroll

“Luckily, no lives were lost.”

Those words were uttered by Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, at Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting, reflecting on the many dangerous situations created by heavy rain and flooding over the previous 24 hours. We can thank law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, 911 dispatchers and everyone else who was out in it, performing their duty while Mother Nature made it increasingly difficult.


Wednesday night was like few others in Carroll for emergency services personnel as torrential rains — dumping as much as 3 inches in an hour over the region — combined with already saturated ground and already dangerously high water levels to flood many areas, making for dangerous situations on roads and elsewhere.

More than 60 roads were closed by early Thursday morning, Doug Brown, Carroll County emergency management coordinator told us, and several remained closed throughout the day as flood damage, downed trees and wires, and sinkholes rendered numerous roads unsafe. Even some homes were not a refuge, some surrounded by water with first floors being flooded and occupants fleeing upstairs. Some officials said they had never seen flooding like this, or at least not in nearly half a century, since Hurricane Agnes.

Throughout the peak of the storm, between 8:30 and 11 p.m., there were about 100 calls to 911, Brown said, adding that 15 required swift water rescues.

The emergency scanner squawked continuously with calls for help figuratively flooding the system, an operator at one point responding to a police officer with, “Sadly, we have so many county roads closing, we don't know when we’ll be able to send someone your way.”

But send rescue crews out they did, and thanks to the often heroic efforts of emergency and medical services personnel, in the field and in dispatch, the results weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been.

Bruce Bouch, public information officer for the Gamber volunteer fire company, which handles most of the swift water rescues in the area, detailed 11 water rescue crews sent out between 6 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday.

Most of the rescue situations involved cars that stalled out or were swept off the road by flooding, but not all. Bouch noted that five people had to be rescued from the second story of a flooded home. He also noted that a significant number of those situations involving cars need not have occurred.

“Many of the instances yesterday, where vehicles were driven where they shouldn’t have been, and that’s where the theory of ‘Turn around, don’t drown’ comes in,” he told us. “Many times you’ll find that you’re in a car and you’ll think, ‘Eh, it’s not that deep, water’s not moving that fast,’ but you don’t realize that an engine, once it is flooded, it can stall very rapidly.”

Responders had to deal not only with the emergencies themselves, but with difficulties in even getting to those in trouble because of flooded roads, often needing to figure out creative, alternate routes. And, of course, other emergencies don’t stop just because of natural disasters. During the peak of the storm, the scanner requested aid for one overdose and two possible heart attacks. Later, there were gunshots reported in Westminster.

It was a banner evening for emergency workers, as Wantz pointed out Thursday.

“We have two 911 call centers in the county,” he said at the commissioners’ weekly meeting. “Even people who were not working last night came in to volunteer at the 911 centers. That’s just how we are here in Carroll.

“We can fix our pipes and culverts; luckily no lives were lost.”

Indeed. For that everyone should be most thankful. And, with more rain in the forecast, everyone should have a plan in place at home and the sense to stay off the roads should we ever have a repeat of Wednesday night.